Porsche Taycan Turbo S review, test drive
It’s amazing the lengths people (and companies) will go to, just to prove a point. The length? 6,500km across nine countries. And the point to prove? That the Porsche Taycan, the first all-electric car from the German sportscar maker, can traverse a continent as easily as a regular car, by simply plugging into the Ionity fast-charging stations sprouting up on European highways.
Making long-distance travel possible all across Europe is the main objective of Ionity, a newly formed joint venture between Volkswagen, BMW, and Ford and Daimler groups. Ionity’s high-power charging points, with outputs of 350kW, can refill the Taycan’s massive 93.4kWh battery in mere minutes and not hours. It’s this reduced charging time that is the key to EV adoption. Ionity has a target of opening 400 fast-charging locations across Europe by 2020, but the current count is just 150 and the average distance between chargers is 120km.
For now, you can’t get away from the fact that the current number of Ionity outlets are still far and few between, and this makes the Taycan’s range even more crucial. In fact, in the EV world, range is a stronger currency than speed, performance and power. So the crucial question is not just how fast? But, how far can the Taycan go? To answer that and more, I joined Porsche’s electric bandwagon on the last 670km, Berlin-to-Stuttgart leg of a mega drive that started in Oslo.
Tayc a look
The Taycan may be Porsche’s first EV, but above everything else, it’s first a Porsche, and that means it’s been designed and engineered with performance as the topmost priority. But does it look like a Porsche should? This four-door, four-seat sedan has all the elements of the legendary brand. There’s a bit of Panamera in there, whilst the rear roofline and muscular haunches remind of you of the iconic 911. With no lump of an engine to package, the Taycan’s bonnet is pretty low and drops down quite dramatically towards the front. In fact, the overall stance is really crouched and looks overtly sporty, especially with massive 21-inch alloys on the Turbo S variant I drove (the Turbo gets 20 inchers). You expect EVs to have some techy or futuristic design details but, other than the four LED headlight clusters and the slim light strip running across the rear, the Taycan’s design is remarkably smooth, sleek and uncluttered. The overall shape is typically understated and yet oozes of the Taycan’s purpose – to be the fastest point A to B electric-powered car you can buy. This leads me to the other all-important question. Does the Taycan drive like a Porsche should?
Taycan with Panamera and 911 styling cues is unmistakably a Porsche.
A part of the answer comes up in just 2.8sec – the time it takes for the Taycan to accelerate from 0-100kph. However, these figures, impressive as they are, don’t tell the full story because, for one, they are not the EV performance benchmark (the Tesla Model S P100D does 0-100 in 2.6sec!). But for owners what will matter is that the Taycan feels much faster than the numbers suggest.
Indulge in a launch control start and you’ll be shocked (pun intended) by the ferocity of the forward thrust, which slams your head against the seat. The initial acceleration is so strong, it feels like I’ve been strapped onto Chandrayaan-2 at lift-off. My brain struggles to keep pace with the Swabian scenery flashing by and the beef burger I’ve had for lunch is pressed down into my intestines. Delivering this monumental performance is an 800V electrical architecture that powers a pair of electric motors that zap out a combined 761hp in the Turbo S variant I’m driving. The lower Turbo version delivers ‘only’ 680hp. What’s even more astonishing is how silently and seamlessly this humongous chunk of power is served up. Even at an indicated 265kph, the Taycan’s electronically capped top speed which can be achieved in a whiff, the cabin is surreal quiet. Except for a bit of wind noise and a muted drone from the tyres, the ease with which the Taycan wafts across German autobahns feels like a non-event. The incredibly low 0.22 drag coefficient, the lowest on a Porsche, no doubt allows the Taycan to scythe through the air without a fuss.
The lack of drama threatens to rob the Taycan of any character but, thankfully, it’s still a Porsche at heart and that means the driving experience isn’t anesthetised like in most EVs.
You’ll use ‘Range’ more often than you think.
Rotate the drive mode dial to ‘Sport Plus’ and the electric thrum of the twin permanent magnet synchronous motors is exquisitely magnified; and the whine of the electric motors, when you lift off to coast, sounds like a non-synchro gearbox with straight-cut teeth. Yes, this is the first electric car that actually sounds quite good! It’s different, but it’s good.
You can also feel the unique two-speed transmission (a first on an EV) shifting, especially during a launch, and this slight interruption of power curiously feels more natural and not like a typical EV’s. First gear is only activated in Sport and Sport Plus modes and allows for quicker acceleration, whilst second gear gives a higher top speed.
Porsche’s DNA is most evident in the Taycan’s astonishingly good road manners that belie its 2.3 tonne weight. It’s quick to change direction, has a tenacious grip and feels like it’s superglued to the road. The steering, though not quite as feelsome as other Porsches, has wonderful fluency and precision that makes every corner a joy. It’s only through really tight corners or when you hit a series of undulations that you can sense the Taycan is heavier than you think.
The good thing is that the prodigious grip and sharp handling hasn’t come at the expense of ride comfort. The body control is so good and the adaptive dampers and air springs are so well judged that the Taycan rides superbly over the few uneven roads we encountered deep in rural Germany. In fact, I suspect when the Taycan finally comes to India, it will surprise owners with its ability to tackle our roads.
No other EV can match the Taycan’s ride and handling.
The bit Porsche has hit out of the park, along with the EV rulebook, are the brakes, which the company has consciously and painstakingly developed to feel as natural as possible. Instead of using regenerative braking which sharply slows the car down when you lift off, the Taycan coasts like a normal car, doing most of the regeneration only when the brake pedal is applied. As a result, the brakes are nicely progressive, just like they should be in any high-performance sportscar, and is another instance of Porsche trying to make the Taycan feel as unlike an EV as possible.
The spot-on driving position, too, is very Porsche and makes you feel instantly at one with the car. The well-contoured seats are a bit firm at first, but prove supremely comfortable out on the trans-European dash.
Four digital screens may seem overwhelming at first, but in true Porsche style, they are so logically organised and intuitive to use that shuffling through the myriad functions soon becomes second nature.
Porsche retains its classic five-cluster design theme for the instrument panel but the all-digital display means you can configure the layout in multiple ways. You can even have just one function displayed if you choose – like a huge navigation map that stretches across the curved screen.
Taycan dashboard abounds with digital screens and has few hard buttons.
All these years, Porsche has resolutely stuck to its tradition of using a large analogue tachometer in the centre of the instrument cluster, but now with the engine gone, so has the tachometer. It’s been replaced by a power meter with a digital speedo in the middle, if you opt for the Classic mode layout.
The main 10.9-inch display for the infotainment system and other key functions are housed on the dash, while there’s a secondary 8.4-inch screen in the centre console that controls functions like the audio volume and climate control.
The optional fourth screen sits directly in front of the passenger and, no doubt, its speedo readout will add to the excitement of the ride. Passengers can also access functions like navigation directions, radio and some real-time information, like weather and traffic. Leaving the passenger to play around with these functions is a good thing, as it lets the driver concentrate on the road. The lack of physical buttons is something I missed and the screens – especially the one in the centre console – picked up fingerprints easily and needed a wipe every now and then.
You don’t want to be spending your time in the back seat of Taycan, struggling to get past the narrow door opening and low roofline. But once you sit inside, it’s not such a hardship posting. No, it’s not spacious by sedan or even large hatchback standards but it’s not cramped either. Six footers, with a bit of adjustment of the front seat, will find sufficient legroom, and headroom is decent too.
Rear seat snug but not cramped.
The Taycan’s cabin has a high floor to accommodate the battery that’s tucked under it. This would have forced passengers plopped on the low seats to sit in a rather uncomfortable ‘knees-up’ position, but Porsche has cleverly solved this problem with ‘foot garages’ or recesses that enhance legroom and improve seating posture.
The boot isn’t particularly big but it is spacious enough for a couple of small bags, and the trunk in the front (or ‘frunk’ in EV parlance) can hold 81 litres. Storage space in the cabin is limited, too, but you get enough cubby holes for loose bits.
Though the cabin is quite practical, the true test of an EV’s practicality is the range.
How far can you tayc it?
Drive the Taycan the way it begs you to and the battery discharges at an alarming rate, and this highlights what is possibly its biggest weakness – the range, or the lack of it. It’s also a reminder that EVs still aren’t as unshackled as their internal engine counterparts and you always have to keep one eye on the battery icon. On our final run, an 80 percent charge indicated a range of 283km, which seemed a comfortable margin for the 224km run to Stuttgart. But driving hard and mainly in Sport Plus mode juiced the battery, and my driving partner Damien Reed, who took over from me after my stint, was forced to drive in ‘Granny mode’ to conserver the charge. We made it home with just 4 percent of charge left in the battery. That last bit of the drive got our hearts beating faster than all the times we effortlessly rocketed to Vmax on the autobahns.
350kW Ionity charging network makes long-distance driving in an EV a reality.
The biggest revelation for me was how brilliantly the Ionity stations work. At the Taycan’s charging rate of 270kWh, it took just 20 minutes to fill the battery from 5 percent to 80 percent. Though that’s still not as quick as filling a tank with liquid fuel, the extra time was nicely spent having a quick coffee and a bite. The Ionity network also highlighted how far behind India is in the EV race, primarily due to our virtually non-existent public charging infrastructure. The good thing is that this won’t stop Porsche from launching the Taycan in India, with a debut planned in Delhi a day before the Auto Expo kicks off. India prices haven’t been finalised yet, but we estimate it to be between Rs 2.5-2.7 crore.
No doubt, the Taycan is the best EV I’ve driven yet. But is it the best Porsche? I’d still take a 911 and enjoy looking at the rev counter rise, instead of a dropping state of charge!